Jesus’ most common orientation to God is as his Father. Does that strike you as intriguing? It should! But perhaps we are too familiar with Jesus’ references to God as his Father (some 165 plus times in the Gospels alone!) that we forget that in the Old Testament God is only referred to as “Father” fifteen times, with the imagery implied in just a small handful of others.
Lord, Creator, Sovereign – are much more common images. Very different emotions rise up when contemplating a deity king and a dad, at least for most. Maybe that’s one reason so many of us prefer the New Testament to the Old…though Jesus sure seems to have discovered the congruous nature and character of the one He calls Father in that same Old Testament of ours, but that’s a different discussion.
Could the unexpected and voluminous use of Father by Jesus indicate that perhaps we too are meant to primarily relate to God as such?
As you might imagine, being the dad of (soon-to-be) 6-year-old twins—a beautiful little girl and handsome young dude—Jesus’ surprising and prolific naming of God as Father has resonated with me. Now, you might expect me to muse on how being a parent has helped me identify with God who is a parent; and I am sure such correlation has for many. Yet, being a dad for these first years of my children’s lives has helped me identify more with my own childishness in relation to the Father than one who is parenting like him.
Being a child is freeing, unsustainably simple and utterly overwhelming at times! I observe my little girl play in the comforts of a safe home with ample toys, imagining herself to be a warrior princess who is kind and noble, who abruptly determines her playmate brother is no longer needed and an absolute pain that must be smitten! I witness my little buddy in the context of a warm afternoon play catch with me for hours like we are best friends only to have him give me lip as if I am out only to ruin his existence when it’s time to eat our broccoli!
I see the anguish of mistakes, the uncontrollable joy of unexpected encounters, the difficulty of discovering and processing new emotions, the deep sleep of knowing one is loved and cared for, the pains of communication, the anticipation for tomorrow’s adventures and the budding worry of what others might think.
Of course, all of this is simply my children becoming fully human – what we call maturing, that unstoppable force of growing up. Yet, I cannot help but contemplate my own maturing as a human, as a child of God, while I observe them in the normal ups and downs of any given day. At times myself experiencing all the simplicity, freedom and overwhelming moments of growing up with God as my Father. And, of Jesus experiencing a Father whom He grew up with, increasing in “wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
What a wonderful and actually complex experience it is to be a child!
Contemplation though is too often brief, as are all things when you have young kids! Suddenly I am rushed back to the pressure of parenting, attempting (often struggling if I am honest) to be the one who cultivates a safe environment and whose correction is for edifying not extinguishing. In that moment when contemplation collides with real time, that is when I am most grateful to be a child of God, to call him my Father! To be one who lives like a child still today in the world my Father has cultivated for me. That’s the faith I am learning from parenting!
 See Robert H. Stein, “Fatherhood of God”, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 247.